City’s incumbents reelected, but West Sac school board race too close to call


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

West Sacramento voters spoke last week on several local issues.

A week later, what we know almost for certain is that city council incumbents Bill Kristoff and Oscar Villegas fended off professional boxer Oleg Maskaev to retain their seats on the council, and Christopher Cabaldon will get another term as mayor. He ran unopposed.

It’s also pretty clear that challenger Katie Villegas, executive director of the Yolo County Children’s Alliance, will get a seat on the local school board.

But with absentee ballots and provisional ballots that made up about a quarter of the local vote still to be tallied, it’s less obvious which other two candidates will win a school board term.

Second place candidate Alicia Cruz has 4,915 votes so far, followed by incumbent Mary Leland at 4,598 and incumbent Dave Westin with 4,510. With 3,000 ballots yet to be fully processed, that cluster – particularly the 88-vote spread between Leland and Westin – doesn’t look overly secure. There’s only room for two of those three candidates to join Villegas as winners in the Washington Unified School District race.

“Between provisional ballots and absentee ballots that were dropped off at the polling places, I would estimate a little over 3,000 remain to be counted (in the West Sacramento race),” said spokesperson Tom Stanionis of the Yolo Elections Department. “That’s about 25 percent of the votes cast.”

What are “provisional” ballots?

“When somebody shows up at a polling place and they aren’t on the list, or they are on the list but they were mailed an absentee ballot which they can’t find or produce, we go through and research each one to see if that person can vote. Typically, they’re voting in the wrong place.”

The elections department is allowed up to 28 days to finish its vote count, but Stanionis said staff at the Woodland office would like to finish earlier – perhaps ahead of Thanksgiving next week.

KATIE VILLEGAS: Top vote-getter in the race for three seats on the school board (News-Ledger photo)

Villegas – top candidate in the school district race – told the News-Ledger she is “super excited” about her apparent top finish. She’s over a thousand votes ahead of second-place Cruz. Why does she think she succeeded?

“I worked seven days a week for about 10 weeks on this campaign,” she said. “I hit about 3,000 homes walking precincts. I think (the win came from) everything combined – the hard work, the message, and the work I’ve already done in the community,” she said.

Does she have a plan for “day one” when she’s seated on the board next month?

“I think I still have a lot of meetings before day one,” Villegas answered. “There’s a school board conference, meeting with the  (district) cabinet, touring schools. I think I’ll be getting up to speed pretty quickly.”

Westin, at least for the moment, appears to be losing his seat on the school board. But swing of about 90 votes could change that.

“With 3,000 votes not being counted, and the race so close, it’s too early to tell,” he commented to the News-Ledger.

Westin is perhaps the board’s best-known member in recent years, serving as president of the board during a period of dramatic student test gains.

Westin thinks some campaigning against him by an independent group is responsible for his current fourth-place in the standings.

DAVID WESTIN: former board president is now in fourth place, but hopes final ballots will lift him into the winner's circle (photo from WUSD website)

“We ran a clean, honest, positive campaign,” said Westin. “They ran a closing-in-on $50,000 special interest, developer-funded attack campaign specifically designed to go after me on false, misleading and inaccurate information. . . if they hadn’t run that, this would have been a blow-out result.”

Westin was referring to mailers by the “Keep West Sacramento Moving Forward” organization claiming the school district is a “mess,” and that claimed only eight high school juniors out of 500 here “are considered ‘college ready.’”

Their mailers urged a “no” vote on Westin. One mailer featured Mayor Cabaldon and Yolo County Supervisor suggesting “yes” votes on competitors Villegas, Leland and Cruz.

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